clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Super Bowl 52: Who can replicate the game-changing plays of Super Bowls 49 and 51?

The past two Patriots Super Bowl victories have been full of jaw-dropping plays. Who could make those plays in Super Bowl LII?

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

If you have paid any attention to the recent New England Patriots Super Bowl victories, or any of them for that matter, then you know all about the unbelievable plays that have decided their Super Bowls. It seems that every time Tom Brady and the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, the game is decided in the final few minutes.

When we look back to Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI, we can point at a few obvious plays that helped the Patriots come back from 10- and 19-point deficits in the fourth quarter, respectively.

I decided to take a look back at eight of the biggest plays from these two phenomenal Super Bowls, and took a guess at which members of the 2017 New England Patriots we could see replicate these plays. Lesser-known players, say Malcolm Butler and James White, have become heroes and Patriot greats, say Julian Edelman, have added to their legacies in New England Super Bowls; and it’s possible more Patriots are added to this list come tonight.

Super Bowl XLIX:

3rd & 14 to Edelman

(10:58) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass deep middle to J.Edelman to NE 49 for 21 yards (K.Chancellor)

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the Patriots down 10, it was clear that New England’s offense had to get a positive drive. Facing a three-and-out, it looked as if we would have to rely on the Patriot defense. New England was 6-for-11 on previous third downs at this point, and none were as daunting as these 14 yards.

In what has been a staple of Patriots plays in recent years, on a third down that New England desperately had to convert, Brady went to his reliable target, Edelman. The receiver was able to find the soft spot of Seattle’s zone coverage and survive - yes, survive - the hit from heat seeking missile, Kam Chancellor.

The Patriots would face one more third down on this drive, converted with another 15+ yard catch from Edelman, leading to Brady finding Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone to put the Patriots in striking distance.

2017 Patriots: WR Danny Amendola

This option doesn’t really have another choice. No receiver on the 2017 Patriots has moved the chains in critical situations like Amendola, and it helps having the magic of ‘Playoff Amendola.’

The clutch receiver leads the team’s wide receivers in catch percentage, converting 70.9% of his targets into receptions, and first downs, with 52 over the season. If the Patriots are in another crucial third-and-long, Brady will be quick to look to Amendola in the face of trouble.

Edelman game-winning TD

(2:06) T.Brady pass short left to J.Edelman for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

With just over two minutes remaining in the game, Josh McDaniels went back to a successful play that Brady had just missed previously. With one more play before the two minute warning and three yards to go, New England could run anything they wanted here.

However, this time, Brady placed the ball perfectly and the Patriots capitalized on good coaching. Edelman made CB Tharold Simon look like a fool again, showcasing his footwork on the game’s biggest play - at that point.

2017 Patriots: WR Brandin Cooks

This route concept has become one of McDaniels’ and the Patriots’ favorites in the red zone, and they executed it again in this past AFC Championship Game. Yet, instead of testing CB Jalen Ramsey against Brandin Cooks, who was running Edelman’s route, Brady found Amendola in the back of the end zone.

It’s definitely possible McDaniels comes back to a variation of this play in Super Bowl LII. With much of this game relying on Brady spreading out the defense and exploiting certain matchups, it will be interesting to see if New England could get Cooks in a favorable matchup with this route concept.

With Cooks coming off of one of the most productive seasons in New England Patriots wide receiver history, it would be nice to see his season, and the trade, even more validated with a big touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Hightower tackle at goal line

(1:06) M.Lynch left tackle to NE 1 for 4 yards (D.Hightower).

In what is still one of the most unrecognized game-changing plays ever, thanks to the play that followed it, Dont’a Hightower began to shape the narrative of his big play ability in big games.

With a torn labrum and backed up against his own goal line, Hightower tackled Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch with one arm. It appeared that Lynch would have a pretty clear path to the end zone, until Hightower came out of nowhere. Hightower bench-pressed six-foot-five, 310-pound OT Russell Okung off of himself before making the tackle. We don’t need to describe any further how insane that is.

2017 Patriots: DT Malcom Brown

This was maybe the toughest one to decide. There are not many players that can shed a block and make that play with just five yards to the goal line. Additionally, this year’s defense is very different from the 2014 one that made the goal line stand. Even though the Patriots struggled against the run for much of the regular season, they have found in recent weeks, especially due to the strong play from Malcom Brown and acquisition of DT Ricky Jean Francois.

With the Patriots facing a familiar face in Philadelphia’s backfield, LeGarrette Blount, the former New England RB will undoubtedly get carries near the goal line. Blount led the league in yards after contact per attempt (3.56) this past season, and will pose a similar challenge to this Patriots defense.

If the Patriots are going to get a big play in the backfield against this Philadelphia offense, Brown is going to have to make an impact against C Jason Kelce and an incredible Eagles offensive line. Brown should be up to the test, though, as the third-year defensive tackle has become one of the best young defensive tackles against the run, and will be key for New England’s defense against Philadelphia’s rushing attack.

Butler INT

(:26) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right intended for R.Lockette INTERCEPTED by M.Butler at NE -1. M.Butler to NE 2 for 3 yards (R.Lockette)

The entire world knows this play. With this game-sealing interception, the undrafted free-agent cornerback locked up the biggest defensive play in Super Bowl history.

The play has been broken down so many times, and there are few more recognizable ones. Not much to say about this one.

2017 Patriots: CB Stephon Gilmore

Even with Butler still on this Patriots team, if there’s one Patriot that will make a game-changing interception, I’d put my money on Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore has been the team’s best cornerback since the second half of the regular season, and has shown textbook technique in critical times (*cough* the AFCCG). He’s often matched up with the team’s top receiver, and he’ll likely see more of the same against WR Alshon Jeffrey.

That said, there is no way anyone would ever run this play on Bill Belichick again. If there’s a play in the end zone with a one-on-one WR-CB matchup, I’d expect it to be high in the air. Gilmore has shown refined ball skills compared to Butler, and another interception may be due.

Super Bowl LI:

Hightower strip sack

(8:31) (Shotgun) M.Ryan sacked at ATL 25 for -11 yards (D.Hightower). FUMBLES (D.Hightower) [D.Hightower], RECOVERED by NEA.Branch at ATL 25. A.Branch to ATL 25 for no gain (C.Chester).

Another Super Bowl, another big play from Hightower. This time, it came in the form of a strip-sack when the team needed a turnover most. Before the play, New England showed six at the LOS (not counting Chung in coverage), with LB Kyle Van Noy dropping back into coverage after the snap. Van Noy’s bluff and Hightower’s placement before the snap were just enough to catch Falcons RB Devonta Freeman’s off guard.

Hightower’s turnover will always be remembered as the moment when shit got real for Atlanta. Plain and simple, it was a Super Bowl-defining play.

2017 Patriots: LB Marquis Flowers

Marquis Flowers is a player that could be all over the field Sunday night and many viewers will have no idea who he is. After getting traded to New England for a seventh-round pick, Flowers has seen his play time drastically increase. Since December, he has been on the field for 241 snaps and has recorded 4.5 sacks.

Flowers has flashed his athleticism and versatility these past few weeks, and with Matt Patricia dialing up pressure, we could see Flowers get home. He may be on the field for around 30 snaps in Super Bowl LII, and he’s a darkhorse for someone that could make a game-altering play.

Flowers sack

(3:56) (Shotgun) M.Ryan sacked at NE 35 for -12 yards (T.Flowers).

Trey Flowers’ most valuable trait is his ability to rush the passer from the 5-technique and the 3-technique. He’s able to win in several different matchups, and he used Super Bowl LI to showcase his skills.

Flowers’ sack came on 2nd-and-11 from New England’s 23 yard line. With DT Alan Branch’s twist setting Flowers up in a favorable one-on-one, the rest of the work was easy for him. The sack effectively pushed Atlanta out of field goal range, giving the ball back to Brady to finish the job. Without this play, there’s virtually no chance for the Patriots to win with not enough time to string together two scores.

2017 Patriots: DE Deatrich Wise

While I’m confident that Flowers could easily pull off a similar play in this year’s Super Bowl, I decided to go with another former Arkansas Razorback, Deatrich Wise. The rookie defensive end has been impressive in his role as a rotational end, showcasing his productivity rushing the passer. Wise finished only second to Trey Flowers on the team with 19 quarterback hits and played 51.3% of the defensive snaps in his first year.

Against Philadelphia’s potent offense, headlined by Eagles RT Lane Johnson, New England’s edge rushers are going to face a tough task. The Patriots defense will have a lot of different plays and looks thrown at them, and if Philadelphia’s offensive snap count keeps rising, then fresh legs will be needed on the edge. This is where Wise could see a good amount of snaps. With him being one of the most productive (sacks, hits, pressures) pass rushers in his class, Super Bowl LII could be a coming-out party.

Edelman catch

(2:28) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass deep middle to J.Edelman to ATL 41 for 23 yards (K.Neal). Atlanta challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field was confirmed. (Timeout #3.)

The best play and catch of 2017, bar none. Edelman’s catch will always have it’s place in Super Bowl history. I went from near despair at what looked like an interception, to having my jaw drop.

The catch was one of three straight first-downs for New England on the drive, setting up the game tying touchdown.

2017 Patriots: TE Rob Gronkowski

Unlike in Super Bowl LI, Rob Gronkowski will be suiting up for New England come Sunday night. With as much talk behind how the Patriots will spread the field and throw the ball, it’s unquestioned that Gronkowski will see his fair share of looks in Super Bowl LII.

With a deep, talented defensive line for the Eagles, pressure will also be evident in the Super Bowl, meaning some risky throws. Gronkowski poses a matchup threat to anyone in the league, and Brady has shown he’s not afraid to throw there in coverage. This makes him my favorite for a catch that leaves us all in awe.

White game-winning TD

(11:08) J.White right end for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN. The Replay Official reviewed the runner broke the plane ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field was confirmed.

The Patriots finalized the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history with RB James White fighting into the end zone on a crack-sweep. This was White’s third touchdown of the game, tied for a Super Bowl record.

Following Blount’s fumble early in the game, White was given many opportunities in Super Bowl LI, proving himself worthy in an MVP-level game.

2017 Patriots: RB Dion Lewis

Although this is just a simple two yard touchdown run, the game was put in White’s hand with the Patriots yards away from a Super Bowl victory. This season, I expect the Patriots to put the ball in the hands of Dion Lewis with the game on the line.

Lewis has been the Patriots’ best back this season emerging as a complete, three-down back. In the last game, with the Patriots needing just one first down to advance to the Super Bowl, Lewis was the go-to guy. Lewis had three straight carries, including this 18-yard one to seal the game.

Basically, if New England gets another huge rushing touchdown in the Super Bowl, fully expect Lewis to be carrying the rock.

Super Bowl LII should be nothing short of spectacular. The world and Vegas may see the Eagles as underdogs, but, if it’s a Super Bowl with New England, it should be a close game. The rest of the world may hate the Patriots, but they can’t deny that they provide some entertaining Super Bowls, with plays that will be forever remembered.

New England is looking to strengthen their second dynasty of the 2000s, and if the Patriots are going to be hoisting their sixth Lombardi trophy come tonight, there will have to be a few more plays added to this list.

Follow @KirkNFL on Twitter